Dollhouse – “The Ghost”

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I should be working on something that isn’t this blog, but since that seems to end with me staring blankly at the screen I’m going to write about the pilot of Mr. Whedon’s new series Dollhouse. He’s been running about the PR circuit filling us all in on what the series is supposed to be about. Apparently it‘s all very deep, dark, and very philosophical.

I’ve been really hesitant about the series. First, the premise really doesn’t grab me all that much. I mean, it’s interesting as a thought experiment for discussing the mind/body split, but as a TV show it strikes me a little on the “personality of the week” side of the spectrum and not a deeper rumination on the nature of the mind, the body, and the construction of our identities. Don’t get me wrong, I actually prefer my TV and culture to be on the more cerebral side, this concept just doesn’t seem to be tickling my fancy. Second, while I thoroughly enjoyed Eliza Dushku as Faith on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I’m not convinced she has the acting chops to pull off an entirely new and believable characters each week. I look forward to hopefully being pleasantly surprised. Last, is the promotional materials. I just… yeah …they are.. gah.. so do not seem to go with the deep dark thought-provoking thing. You can see a gallery of images here. Joss may want it to be all about “look! exploitation is wrong and aren’t you uncomfortable with what is essentially identity rape” but “hey! Eliza is smokin’ hot in that short white dress – tune in next week when she wears even less!” If they want the audience to be creeped out by all of the serious exploitation and mind/idenity rape – these images are not the way to go. I have high hopes though that these initial impressions will fade away and I will be able to happily enjoy the series and ask everyone, “have you seen Dollhouse yet? If you haven’t you need to because it’s awesome” like I do with Battlestar and Buffy.

Specific issues and observations about the episode.

Too much exposition. I know I just spent a blog post commenting on the info dump that was “No Exit” but in Dollhouse it felt too forced. It was all so heavy handed. Here let me explain everything to you the stupid audience. You know there’s still chalk left on the board after you erase it. I had no idea! See, now we’re going to show you a half naked and sweaty Helo, I mean FBI agent guy, getting a verbal and physical beat down while we use this moment to cleverly explain why the Dollhouse is so bad. OIC what you did there.

Why on earth would you hire a fake hostage negotiator and not a real one is beyond me. I did like how the echo (see even her name is “full of meaning”) of the personality’s past invaded Echo’s amalgamated personality construct. There are ghosts and echoes and they’re all insubstantial but nevertheless material. This is where I hope the show goes. Drawing people into the story through which observations then emerge rather than by hitting me on the head and saying “dude, tabula rasa is so not true!”

I’m intrigued by what happened to Amy Acker’s character. She seemed unnaturally calm about everything. I was also sufficiently disturbed by the initial mind wipe that the the new active was going through. Hated the opening motorcycle chase. And who’s the guy with the knife and the videos of pre-Echo. She seemed so happy then. I look forward to next week’s episode.

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3 responses »

  1. I just finished watching “The Target” episode. I’m not quite sure what to think. I may continue to watch out of curiosity’s sake. The movies “Total Recall,” “The Matrix,” and “Minority Report” come to mind when you talk about a mind/body split. I believe Christian Slater’s latest flop could enter into this as well.

    Anyway, there seems to be some philosophical relevance to all of these efforts but they fall short. Can you have the body without the mind? If you take it out of the context of television and shift to medicine and coma patients, the answer may be no. Their minds are in neutral as are their bodies. In these shows the minds (or memories) are wiped clean but are still in motion. There is something there, and it keeps the bodies in motion.

    From what I can tell, the imprints left in Amy’s mind leaves remnants of memories past. At some point she will meet all of her former selves. (As all characters do in shows like these.) It would be nice to see Amy’s character go in a direction others like her have not.

    I’m a Buffy fan, btw.

  2. I think you’re right on about there being a philosophical relevance that’s failing to materialized. I read the original pilot and it dealt more with the issue of things like muscle memory and how their bodies can function in their inactive mode.

    Right now, it’s not saying anything interesting about the nature of identity and the mind’s, body’s, and experiences’ role in shaping identity.

  3. Pingback: Dollhouse’s sense of an ending « Seriality

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